Preservation Is…

A building does not have to be an important work of architecture to become a first-rate landmark. Landmarks are not created by architects. They are fashioned by those who encounter them after they are built. The essential feature of a landmark is not its design, but the place it holds in a city’s memory. Compared to the place it occupies in social history, a landmark’s artistic qualities are incidental.

Herbert Muschamp, American architecture critic

Elephant , Atlantic City, NJ 50s1

Lucy the Margate Elephant was built by a land speculator in 1881 hoping to attract visitors and property buyers to his land holdings on the New Jersey shore. Over 130 years later, she is a beloved landmark and is still a tourist attraction!
“The back of this beautiful postcard from Atlantic City, New Jersey, 1950′s, reads:
The only elephant in the world you can go through and come out alive. This famous building was erected in 1885. The elephant contains ten rooms; its interior is visited by thousands.” Image via NextNature

quote via Reader Area Development


  1. caelit90

    I’m a Masters of Historic Preservation student and we actually learned about Lucy in class. It’s amazing that she made it through Hurricane Sandy. Value of a landmark is shaped by human experience. A historically significant building can be viewed as completely insignificant unless some emotional connections have been attached to the structure. So many structures and landscapes, despite having gained widespread emotional connection throughout a community, are heavily altered or destroyed because they do not fit within local designation standards. I am glad Lucy has made it through!

    • bricksandmortarpreservation

      I first learned about Lucy in an HP class, as well! I went on to write several papers about mimetic architecture and “roadside” architecture (these topics are especially good when you know you’ll have to present your findings to your class because the buildings are so fun to look at!) Long live Lucy! As for atypical-but-significant places, the principle I try to always keep in mind is that “Everything is significant to someone.” As preservationists, we have to try to educate the people who care about the places that do not fit local standards and show them how to fight for the places that are important to them. Most standards can be manipulated by a good argument! If you haven’t read it already, you should definitely check out Tom King’s Saving Places That Matter. It’s basically a guide to subverting the National Register standards (his tips and strategies could easily be used for working with local standards). Thanks for the comment and thanks for reading!

      • caelit90

        I have not read that book, but it sounds like a great read and right up my alley! I’ll have to add it to my summer reading list I am making for myself 🙂

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